ULTIMATE DOT-MATRIX PRINTER
24-pin Star Micronics SB-10by Patrick Bass, Antic ST Program Editor
With a suggested retail price of $749, the 24-pin dot-matrix Star SB-10 is the top-of-the-line printer fiom Star Micronics. Antic has been waiting eagerly for this printer since we saw it in action at the Consumer Electronics Show. Starting with this issue, our SB-10 will be typesetting the magazine's program listings.
By using 24 wires in the printhead, instead of eight or nine wires like standard dot-matrix printers, the Star SB-10 can produce a print quality nine times denser than before. The result is a typeface that looks, to the naked eye, exactly like letter-quality daisy wheel printing.
In addition to true letter-quality, the Star SB-10 prints text in pica, elite, condensed, proportional, expanded, emphasized and double-strike faces. If you like, you can mix and match print styles on a single page. And naturally the printer also does a top-notch job on graphics.
The SB-10 has a standard Centionics parallel connector. An optional 128K character buffer will be offered later. Two banks of DIP switches are inside the front cover. The first bank controls the default power-up configuration, while the second offers a choice of eight international character sets.
For a speed test, we created a document of 6 paragraphs with 10 lines of 70 characters each. That's 4200 letters per document. The SB-10 printed a draft copy in 55 seconds, and a letter quality copy in 1:54. This translates to 77 draft characters per second, and 37 cps in letter quality. While not a speed demon, the SB-10 is a reasonable combination of both daisy wheel and dot-matrix printer speeds.
Star did a fairly good job with their SB-10 documentation they included examples of commands wherever practical. However, a two-page index for a 146-page manual seems a bit small.
Antic has printed about 2,000 pages on the SB-10 without failure. Both continuous or single sheets of paper can be used, and the tractor feeder is built-in. You may not have an easy time finding replacement T464 ribbon cartridges for this printer. However a few phone calls to specialty computer stores revealed that the more commonplace Toshiba 1350 cartridge can safely be substituted.
Any more quibbles? Well, the Star SB-10 is not exactly what we'd call a quiet printer. But we learned to enjoy hearing the sounds it makes as it produces those clean, smooth Atari special characters you'll see in this month's Antic listings.
We had to write a 24-pin font editor and graphics dump program for 8-bit Atari computers before we could create a new 24-pin character font for the Atari character set without jagged diagonal lines. We could have produced any typefont we needed, but we believed it was important to keep the flavor of the characters that show up on the Atari screen.
The increased resolution of the SB-10 printouts also enabled us to clarify many of the special characters that have been giving trouble to Antic readers. On this month's Typing Special Atari Characters page, notice how much clearer the sample characters look. So no more getting a [CONTROL] [S] cross mixed up with a plus sign, eh? Notice also how each character's curves are now curvy and all the diagonal lines now diag properly.
STAR SB-10 Star Micronics, Inc. 200 Park Avenue New York, NY 10166 (212) 986-6770 $749